With many board members holding back tears and carrying heavy hearts, the decision to “not move forward” with the 2020 Crawford County Fair was made by the Fair Board during Tuesday’s special board meeting via ZOOM and Facebook Live.
After much discussion, Board member Bill Agnew presented the motion that the 2020 fair “in its normal format” be cancelled, while the Board “tries to come up with some contingency plans as more information becomes available.” It was seconded by Second Vice President Dean Maynard, and passed by a 6-2 vote. Fair Board President George Deshner tearfully and “regretfully” voted to pass the motion, along with First Vice President William Good and Board Member Kenneth Hyde and Adam Raney. Board Members Kathy Klink and Ryan Smith provided the opposition.
The Fair Board released the following statement after the decision was made in the meeting:
“The Crawford County Fair Association Board has invested a great deal of time and energy in gathering information from expert sources, soliciting feedback from stakeholders, and consulting with our many partners in order to make a final decision concerning the 2020 Crawford County Fair.
After much deliberation, it is the Board’s decision to not move forward with the event as planned. This choice was made with heavy hearts by people who are passionate about the Crawford County Fair, many of whom have been a part of it since the fair’s early days. We fully understand the emotion tied to this cherished event and realize how disappointing this decision will be to everyone in the community, especially for the numerous vendors, exhibitors, participants, sponsors, and volunteers who make the fair possible.
Based on government, health, and liability requirements projected to remain in effect even in the wake of the pandemic, the Fair Board has determined that meeting such requirements would be logistically impractical and difficult to enforce. Attempting to do so, would not only risk the community’s safety but it would also put the fair at risk financially as well. Regardless, given these unprecedented circumstances, there is no decision that could have been made to the satisfaction of the community at large and all parties involved.
Recognizing the effect this news will likely have on the community, the board does not want the Crawford County Fair to be viewed as another casualty of COVID-19. With this in mind, a contingency committee involving various stakeholders has been formed to explore alternate means of safely celebrating the fair’s 75th anniversary. In doing so, it is our sincere goal to turn our collective circumstance into an opportunity that sustains the optimism and community spirit of Crawford County and its people. The board appreciates your patience and continued support in the future.”
All of the board members were given the floor prior to the vote to voice their opinions on the fate of the 2020 fair.
Good and Hyde shared their concerns with the liability that the fair could be under if attendees were to get sick even if a release was signed prior to entering the fairgrounds.
“Without a crystal ball, I worry liability wise,” Good said. “Even if you have someone sign a release, it’s not more valuable than the paper that it is written on.”
Klink argued that the Board was making the decision “too soon,” saying they needed to wait until Crawford County “gets into (the) Green (Phase) and gets some guidelines to have some modified fair.”
Crawford County is among 17 counties into the state that will be moving into the Green Phase of Governor Wolf’s reopening plan on Friday. The Board previously voted to make a decision on the 2020 fair by June 1.
Before the vote, Deshner stated that, “Fairs were never designed around social distancing.”
“(A fair is) a place for the community to come out together, for our young kids to show all their hard work and effort, to show our community off, to tie agriculture into our everyday and commercial lives, and I just don’t see social distancing working for a fair,” he said.
In the public comment prior to the decision, those in attendance voiced their opinions to keep the fair going in some fashion in the fall — from full blown to reduced and limited events. Others voiced concerns about the liability and wanting to make the 75th installment of the fair as large as it deserved to be by postponing for 2021.
Many of the board members who voted to pass Good’s motion, stated that it was with “regret” or “disappointment.”
Moving forward, the Contingency Committee, led by Maynard, presented some of the ideas that it was working on in order to celebrate what the fair represents in some capacity. He stated a draft of the purpose of the committee: “to produce a multi-platform production of some of the highlights of the county fair to keep people talking about the fair for the next year until we can get together person-to-person back on the fairgrounds.”
Some of the events and topics that the committee will explore will include free stage entertainment, building and grounds updates, live stock, a market auction; horse racing, local foods and vendors, and interviews with junior members, long time exhibitors and volunteers.
“We already have a great list of events to include in this production,” Maynard said. “We’ll start planning now that we know it’s definite (that) there won’t be a 2020 fair that we are used to in Crawford County.”
Multiple people who attended the virtual meeting volunteered to join the committee after Maynard made his committee report.
Other fair news
— The Fair Board unanimously approved to go into an executive session at the conclusion of the meeting for a “land discussion.” After coming out of the executive session, the Board unanimously carried a motion “to secure a solicitor from the Elderkin Law Firm in Erie for advising the Board on legal matters.”
— The Fair Board unanimously approved to cancel the printing of the 2020 fair book and brochures.
The next Fair Board meeting is scheduled for June 11 at 6 p.m. Deshner hopes to have the meeting at the fairgrounds depending on the information from the state government that will be released on the Green Phase.